Opinion

Now is not the time to be a Quiet Australian, says Broulee GP

Dr Michelle Hamrosi 31 January 2020
Broulee beach

Broulee beach and island beyond: the impact of the fires is clear along the South Coast. Photo: Supplied.

As we welcomed 2020, we were forced from our home in Broulee as a raging fire approached. When we returned a few days later, we were grateful to find it was still standing.

That night, around the dinner table, my seven-year-old daughter said, “I just want it to be normal again”.

“Me too,” I replied, thinking, I’m not sure things will ever be ‘normal’ again.

Miss 7 looked pensively into the distance as food went cold on her plate. “I’m just imagining the future,” she said. “Everything is dead and brown. There is no food. There are mountains of plastic and the air is filled with pollution.”

I want to tell her it won’t happen, but I can’t. If we don’t act on climate change, this will be her future.

At 6:00 am on New Year’s Eve, we were woken by our landline ringing and mobile phones beeping. The ‘Fires Near Me’ app sent a warning and an automated messaged from the RFS played a message informing us there was a fire in the Mogo area. Mogo was still a long way from us, so we weren’t panicking. To be safe, we began to implement our bushfire plan.

Then the power and phones went out.  My husband, who was on call for Moruya Hospital anaesthetics, decided to go to work as he needed to be contactable.

Outside it was heating up, a strange, hot dry wind gave me an uneasy feeling. I ran to our neighbours for support. They urged me to prepare to evacuate with them to the beach.

But moments before going the winds changed and in front of our eyes the fireball regressed. Without dependable communication lines, we decided to evacuate initially to Moruya and then to Batemans Bay – all up, we were away for six days.

Since returning home, my daughter’s words have haunted me. The future she is frightened of is already here.

Everything around us is black and smouldering. We’ve had food shortages and our water is unsafe to drink and swim in. Our air is thick with hazardous pollutants. The sand is covered in black ash and piles of burnt leaves. People have lost their homes, properties and businesses. Millions of animals have died.

I’ve been concerned about the growing impact of climate change on our health and our country. But this experience has made it so much more real and palpable. We are being impacted NOW by climate change, and it’s only going to get much worse.

I’m really concerned for the future of my children and whether Australia will even be a liveable place for them.

I’m a local GP, and since we re-opened the Monday after the fires, without power, phones or internet, I’ve seen many patients suffering the impacts of this disaster – smoke exposure, exacerbations of asthma and emphysema, acute anxiety, panic attacks, stress, grief and even suicide.

Clean air, clean water and a liveable climate underpin our very survival. These are the rights of basic health and they’re being eroded before our eyes. Climate change is not about belief, it’s about science.

Let me ask you this: imagine I told you that for the spot on your skin that we biopsied, 97 per cent of pathologists agreed it was melanoma. Would you have it removed, or would you take a 3 per cent chance and leave it?

Many politicians, including our local leaders, are telling us that right now is not the time to talk about climate change.

I cannot think of a better time.

I call on all levels of government, regardless of political alignment, to learn from this climate-fueled disaster and take immediate action. Listen to our scientific and emergency leaders. Listen to the medical community. Declare a climate emergency and get on with the job we pay you to do. It is your duty of care to the Australian public.

The immediate threat of fires has eased, so please do what you can to help our communities recover. Please give generously. But just as importantly, do what you can to help put pressure on our government. Write or email your local representatives. Join a climate activist group like Australian Parents for Climate Action. Climate change is a health emergency. Make no mistake – our health, our livelihoods, our communities and our environment are at risk.

The fires have shown us that risk will not be upon us at a future date, unknown. It is here, right now. We can change course, but we must do it now. Collectively, we can demand it. If we work together, anything is possible.

Now is not the time to be a quiet Australian.

Dr Michelle Hamrosi is a South Coast GP and lives at Broulee with her young family.

What's Your Opinion?

19 Responses to Now is not the time to be a Quiet Australian, says Broulee GP

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Matthew Nott 12:56 am 03 Feb 20

Go Michelle, you are doing a fantastic job.

Ruth Kenrick-smith 11:11 pm 02 Feb 20

Dr Michelle Hamrosi is totally right. Parents around Australia are looking at their children and thinking that their future is apocolyptic. We cannot go back to normal. We must act now.

Julia Harrison 4:32 pm 02 Feb 20

Totally agree. I have and will continue to write to my local MP.

truth 8:46 am 02 Feb 20

Hi, I live in Broulee. Our water has remained safe to drink throughout.There were transient low supermarket stocks of some things but always enough to eat and drink. Nth Broulee was closed to swimmers for a few days (which people ignored to no ill effect) but the sea water has been clear. Air quality varies from bad to excellent depending on the wind so we stay inside when it is worst-and it was fog as much as smoke on Saturday-we are blessed to have on shore breezes often. The sand on the beaches is getting cleared by the tides.

But never let the truth get on the way of an agenda.

    Fact Check 10:35 pm 06 Feb 20

    I think she was referring to the shire, not Broulee alone. Half the shire’s residents were instructed to boil water for quite some time. Over the time of the emergency, there was limited access to food especially as the supermarkets were closed or the roads were closed to the supermarkets. The water was filthy in many place for quite some time and many beaches were closed. Surf Beach was closed for at least 2 weeks due to having sewage contamination. The air quality was hazardous by many times over on a number of occasions – and no level of exposure is now considered safe. She did not make these things up…you can read about them here:

    https://www.beagleweekly.com.au/post/boil-water-notice-moruya-to-the-south
    https://www.beagleweekly.com.au/post/air-quality-health-alert
    https://www.batemansbaypost.com.au/story/6603404/new-study-outlines-health-risks-of-even-short-exposure-to-pm25-air-pollution/

    Anne Rault 11:57 pm 09 Feb 20

    Pity you aren’t prepared to put your name to this nonsense. I was personally impacted by these horrific fires as I live up the Deua River. Fire surrounded us on Thursday January 23. The heat and the wind and the smoke and the dust were unimaginable. We were fairly well-prepared but the fire burnt through the pipes around our pump and we lost all our water. I thought we were going to die. You might think you have written “the truth”. I don’t have any agenda myself but I think I can recognise a climate catastrophe when I look it in the face.

Jennie Moseley 11:38 am 01 Feb 20

Michelle puts it very well. We have a right to demand that our government look to the future of our country. We need them to take responsibility for developing a plan for the future of our country. No more smoke and mirrors. There has been too much smoke. And they should be absolutely appalled if they look in the mirror. We need to shout from the rooftop, if you still have one.

Lyndell Allen 8:40 am 01 Feb 20

Great written article and totally agree but there is another factor that planes fly over every day spraying chemicals in our atmosphere. It is called Geo engineering and it clearly tells you on Google why they are doing this . They are reconstructing our weather and no one talks about it??? Why are we allowing this to happen ???

rokane @aapt.net.au 8:24 am 01 Feb 20

Thankyou Michelle for your writing on life in Broulee as a GP and parent and a not quiet Australian in the midst of all the devastation. I agree with all you say and we need to heed your advice.

Kathryn Barnsley 5:41 am 01 Feb 20

Doctors for the Environment congratulated the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) in declaring climate change a health emergency. The RACGP has joined other major medical colleges and organisations in raising the alarm over the current and growing impact of climate change. Lancet articles have urged doctors to take radical action. GPS in Australia can help lead action to combat climate change.

Tony Sheard 2:22 am 01 Feb 20

Such a fantastic article. Thanks to Michelle for writing and yourselves for publishing

Myfanwy McDonald 11:17 pm 31 Jan 20

Yes! Brilliant. I agree. We cannot afford to be “quiet”. And we need a collective approach to addressing the impacts of climate change. We cant ‘set and forget’ and leave it up to govt to fix, bc they wont. Best wishes to you and your family Dr. Hamrosi. Let’s hope that, collectively, we can shift the dial.

Glenda Heys 4:44 pm 31 Jan 20

She is absolutely spot on!

Wendy Williams 10:53 am 31 Jan 20

We need to all be committed to a healthy future, putting politics aside and develop plans for a sustainable future for us all. This is climate change it’s here now.

Michael Gormly 10:28 am 31 Jan 20

Doctors are best positioned to see the health impacts of environmental pollution. We should listen to them. “I’ve seen many patients suffering the impacts of this disaster – smoke exposure, exacerbations of asthma and emphysema, acute anxiety, panic attacks, stress, grief and even suicide.”

M Wooden 9:28 am 31 Jan 20

Well written Doctor,I agree with you fully and it amazes and disheartens me that an awful lot of people are opting for and continuing to opt for the 3% diagnosis. They refuse to open their eyes and see what the human cancer is doing to our planet!Action has to be done now starting with not opening and closing existing coal mines and cease the manufacturing of plastics. I have grandchildren and am most concerned about their future.

Julia Walker 8:52 am 31 Jan 20

Brilliantly written. We must not be apathetic about climate change, this lady is right, we need action now.

Jesse Rowan 8:32 am 31 Jan 20

Thank you Dr Hamrosi for your reflections on your recent bushfire experiences. My family and I stayed to defend our home in Malua Bay, and all 5 of us have been coughing phlegm ever since. Living in a state of constant vigil for many weeks takes its toll on the psyche. Having been through the Canberra Firestorm, we knew what to expect, but It doesn’t get any easier. I agree with Dr Hamrosi, quiet Australians need to get LOUD,or this will become our new normal. I urge people who dismiss climate change to read some other sources instead if Murdoch’s news with an open mind, and ask yourself “Who stands to profit?” And “what qualifications and experience lies behind typewriter and the research quoted?”.

David Harris 7:50 am 31 Jan 20

Thank you for your heart stirring account Michelle. It beggars belief that even with all this well known info thrust towards our political power brokers (yes, not our leaders) they remain, on both sides, recalcitrant. What do do? Yes work together. Yes hope. Yes take action. Yes strengthen our community resilience. Yes maintain rage and gentleness in equal measure.

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